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Is Superman a hero? Is Batman a Superhero?

Superman and Batman - Men in Tights

Superman and Batman - Men in Tights

This is meant to be a not very serious article, but there is also a more serious personal viewpoint about the nature of heroism, towards the end


Each day we go through life facing the trials and tribulations which the world throws at us and doing the best we can to deal with them, sometimes with modest success, often with farcical failure (this whole essay IS a personal viewpoint after all). We are only human, and to err is human, as is to blunder, to foul up, to be weak and feeble and to be less use in a crisis than an ejector seat in a helicopter. Is it any wonder that for many of us, it seems that either individually or as a society, we are forever careering headfirst and blindfold into disaster?

But every so often, rising from the pages of comic book fiction in a city which exists on no map I’ve ever seen, a masked hero emerges to save us. And not just an ordinary hero either like secret agent James Bond who has to use a Walther PPK gun. No, we are talking superheroes who never age, who arrive from nowhere, defeat the most evil of villains, and disappear again into anonymity until the next time they are called upon, and yet who - despite having saved the world umpteen times over - still manage on occasion to incur the wrath of those in authority (come to think about it, doesn't that sound quite a lot like James Bond?)

So who are these guys and guyesses, what makes them so great, and why do we regard them as superheroes? Should we even regard them as heroes? In this piece of cutting edge journalism, I intend to expose these people for what they really are - the good, the bad and the ugly (and I leave it to the reader to determine which of those three epithets truly necessitates the wearing of a face mask). I will select two of them - Superman and Batman - and assess their claims. It will be a no-holds barred investigation worthy of Clark Kent, and no super powers shall stand in my way.


Public Disclaimer

Hey listen; there's a whole bunch of superhero fans out there, and many are more passionately fanatical than any evil genius or supervillain. And a lot more knowledgeable about their subject too. So no doubt they'll spot some mistakes and inconsistencies in my article. If so - apologies; I make no guarantees about the accuracy of this report, because unfortunately I have not yet been able to to verify the truth in an interview with the Man of Steel or the Caped Crusader. If either Superman or Batman would like to contribute, please use the Comments section at the foot of the article.

But heck, there's inconsistencies galore in the adventures of the superheroes, and nobody complains about them!


How to Identify a Superhero

Researching superheroes for this article was a revelation. Throughout the ranks of the superheroes (and I never realised there were quite so many as there are), the variety of powers really does range from none whatsoever to virtual invulnerability. Some indeed can destroy the world, the universe and everything, should they wish to, while some have abilities that wouldn't cause a raised heart beat in a bunny rabbit. Many of them have, or originally had, just one single special power, including the Flash, as well as Storm, Cyclops, and indeed most of the X-(wo)men, while others have a variety of powers. Some have abilities which only come into play under certain conditions, such as the Incredible Hulk who needs to get a little bit peeved before he can feel stirred to use his powers. Some need an artificial aid like Iron Man's powered armour. So what do superheroes have in common? Well very little apparently.

But most are intelligent and most of course are good role models (otherwise they'd be supervillains wouldn't they?) Many have an alter-ego, and none have any sense of fashion. Many have at least one arch-enemy to contend with, who is brilliant enough to be a master criminal, and yet stupid enough to want to stay in the same town as our superhero. And the activities of most were first discovered by reporters working for those esteemed investigative journals which come from the publishing houses known as 'DC Comics' and 'Marvel'.

Superman, Batman and .... OK Spiderman, this page isn't about you, so just go away and do something useful like - climb a building?

Superman, Batman and .... OK Spiderman, this page isn't about you, so just go away and do something useful like - climb a building?

Why Superman and Batman?

In this study we will look at two polar opposites from the fantasy world of superheroes, who also happen to be the most famous of all - Superman and Batman. I say polar opposites on account of their super abilities:

Superman, as we all know, can do anything and everything. He can fly faster than a speeding bullet, he can even stop a speeding bullet, and he can also stop a crashing aeroplane, an out of control locomotive, and pretty much anything else on Earth. He can do everything, and nothing on this planet can stop him or harm him.

Batman, as I recently discovered to my shock (not being a true expert on these matters) doesn’t have any special natural abilities at all! He’s a human being. He can fall over and bruise his knee. Presumably he can catch a cold and a runny nose. I could poke him in the eye and he'd go 'ouch!' Just what kind of a superhero is this?

Clearly if Superman and Batman are both superheroes and/or heroes, then they are superheroes and/or heroes with many differences as well as similarities.

A fundamental difference - Superman flies through the air faster than a speeding bullet while Batman stands on something

A fundamental difference - Superman flies through the air faster than a speeding bullet while Batman stands on something

Superman's Super Powers

It may come as a surprise to some that the Man of Steel's powers have changed over time. In the 1930s when he first arrived here on Earth, his ability was comparatively limited. He had great strength, could run as fast as a car and jump (not fly) great distances.

But then as if by magic - it can't really be magic if these are real powers - they gradually increased, probably because audiences demanded 'bigger and better' with each sequel. It wasn't long before Superman developed superspeed too fast to see, superstrength, supervision, superhearing and incredible intelligence. That should be superintelligence but every good writer including Clark Kent and me likes to vary his adjectives. He also learned how to fly (superfast).